Throughout the month of February, the James Farmer Multicultural Center is sponsoring various events in association with their Black History Month theme “My Black is Beautiful: Footprints, Reflections and Paths.”
The theme differs from that of the national Black History Month, which is “Black Women in American History and Culture.”
“We always look at the National Theme when we choose ours,” said Marion Sanford, director of the James Farmer Multicultural Center. “We liked it but we wanted to broaden it. We wanted to have contributions of the past, but pave a way for the future.”
“We wanted to highlight focus on women, but give more room for knowledge,” she continued.
While Black History Month is dedicated to celebrating the achievements of black women and men throughout history, “the University of Mary Washington does a highly effective job talking about many diverse subjects, incorporating women and poverty,” said Danny Tweedy, assistant professor of English who teaches an African American literature course.
Some of the events hosted by the multicultural center include cuisines of black culture, film discussions, a lecture by civil rights activist Angela Davis and a step show competition.
When choosing these events, “we take into consideration the interests of the campus and community with speakers and performers,” said Sanford. “We want to meet needs and interests of campus community with an openness for the general community to participate.”
This year, the multicultural center and the Black History Month Committee are excited for the celebration’s keynote speaker, globally renowned activist, Angela Davis.
“We like to try new things to give uniqueness, but attain the same goal. This year we have new and exciting speakers, such as Angela Davis,” said Sanford. “We try to get out there and have a high standard of what we offer and each year we try to raise the bar higher.”
“The University of Mary Washington does an excellent job representing Black History Month and tied into that James Farmer was here has an influence on the History programs,” said Tweedy.
James Farmer, founder of the Congress of Racial Equality and the creator of the 1961 Freedom Rides, taught at UMW from 1984 until 1998. In 1998, the Multicultural Center was renamed the James Farmer Multicultural Center to reflect the impact that he made at the school.
Because Farmer was a professor at UMW and a major activist in the Civil Rights Movement, Black History Month at UMW has a good deal of involvement with the students at UMW, as well as the Fredericksburg community, due to a connection to James Farmer and the Civil Rights Movement.
“In other schools, Black History Month is mentioned but they don’t get a real coordinated effort or student and faculty involvement,” Tweedy said.
One of the events, a discussion about Angela Davis and the prison industrial complex system on February 8, was led by senior Charles Girard, this year’s recipient of the Citizenship Award for Diversity in Leadership Scholarship, which reflects the effort to involve students in the process.
“The discussion was part of the Social Justice Brown Bag Lunch Series that our James Farmer Postdoctoral Fellow in Civil Rights and Social Justice, Dr. Matthew Johnson leads. It was a really engaging event, and I can’t wait for the rest of this month’s programs, ” Girard said.
By incorporating these issues into the celebration and encouraging discussion about them, “UMW’s Black History Month makes history current. We are never really just celebrating the past, and it reminds us of a continuous struggle,” said Tweedy.
Sanford believes the celebration is successful due to the “collaborative effort from the staff at the multi cultural center.”
“[We] try to make sure our educational arm goes as far wide as it can and include all people,” said Sanford.
“Black History Month is a celebration of our country’s heritage; everyone needs to attend these events,” Girard urged. “They are relevant and interesting and have been carefully tailored to the campus community.”